May 2011

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play in the spotlight A Century of Strings Celebrating 100 years of unique musical history By Michael and Jean Muckian O n May 10, 1940, the Pro Arte String Quartet of Brussels was in the middle of a 10-day run of Beethoven’s “Rasoumoffsky” quartets at the Wisconsin Union Theater when the musicians received terrible news. Ger- man Nazi forces had invaded their home country, and the formerly neutral Belgium was now part of occupied Europe. Belgian violinists Alphonse Onnou and Laurent Halleaux and violist Germain Prévost, three of the quartet’s four members, would be unable to return. to the University of Wisconsin Pro Arte Quartet, giving the ensemble a new home within the university. While May marks the 71st anniversary of the quartet’s change in status, the ensem- ble, celebrates the 100th anniversary of its formation by students of the Brussels Con- servatory in 1911-12 this year. Pro Arte is believed to be the world’s oldest continu- ously performing string quartet and the first quartet anywhere to enjoy ensemble- in-residence status at a university, which is now standard operating procedure for all string quartets. The quartet currently consists of violinists But a year earlier, the wheels had already been put in motion for a dramatic change to not only the status of the Pro Arte Quar- tet, but to the very nature of all quartet patronage. University of Wisconsin-Madi- son President Clarence Dykstra and School of Music Chairman Carl Bicken and the quartet had reached a verbal agreement, and by the next October a contract had been signed changing the ensemble’s name Suzanne Beia and David Perry, violist Sally Chisholm and cellist Parry Karp. These four musicians will celebrate a century of strings by performing new works commissioned from four leading contemporary compos- ers. The new commissions, to be performed beginning this fall, include pieces by Walter Mays, Paul Schoenfield, William Bolcom and John Harbison. Lectures, pre-concert dinners and receptions will accompany the premier of each work. Belgium’s misfortune 71 years ago re- sulted in good fortune for today’s Madison music lovers. The 100-year existence of an ensemble whose fate changed the very na- ture of string quartets is something we can now celebrate. Visit and MSO Madison Symphony Orchestra closes its 85th anniversary season May 6-8 at Over- ture Hall with Mozart’s delicate “Concerto for Flute and Harp” and Mahler’s explosive “Symphony No. 2.” MSO harpist Karen Beth Atz and principal flutist Stephanie Jutt will illuminate Mozart’s work, while soprano Julia Faulkner and mezzo-soprano Jamie Van Eyck will join the many voices in Mahler’s dramatic finale signaling another successful MSO season. Visit For more on local arts and entertainment, visit Culturosity at Mozart, Mahler May Means...Les Miz Susan Boyle may have won new hearts with her televised rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream,” but Broadway fans had been humming the heartfelt song for more than two decades. And now, “Les Miserables”—the source of the song—is back, bringing a special 25th anniversary production to Overture Hall May 10-15. New staging and re-imagined scenery based on the paintings of author Victor Hugo give one of Broadway’s favorite musicals new life. It’s time to once again to dream a dream of life worth living. Visit 68 BRAVA Magazine May 2011 Photo courtesy of Matt Dine (above left)

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